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Consumer Trends

2012 trends on tap

As a prelude to this month’s cover story we asked around the industry to find out what trends are on operators’ minds. A look at what folks are going to be paying attention to next year.

Peter Karpinski, Co-Founder & COO
Sage Restaurant Group
Number of units: 9
Denver, Colorado
Trend: Fast-casual Spanish, digital pocketbooks
“I think fast-casual Spanish is one of the next big growth areas in our business. We launched Bodega #5 in Chicago as a fast-casual version of our restaurant Mercat and are exploring developing a freestanding fast-casual Spanish concept. In 2012, we plan to pilot digital pocketbooks, like Google Wallet, in some of our businesses because digital forms of payment that do not link to traditional credit-card companies would cut credit-card fees for merchants and consumers.”

Jesse Gideon, VP of Operations and Corporate Chef
Fresh to Order
Number of units: 6
Atlanta, Georgia
Trend: Touch-screen tablets
“People increasingly want to be able to choose foods customized to their own lifestyles, so we plan to respond to this trend by introducing touch-screen tablet menus. The technology allows customers to tailor each meal to meet their dietary goals by filtering everything on the menu and ranking the options. If guests want to find vegetarian options, eat gluten-free, or filter calories, they just need to select the category. We plan to add this technology to all six Fresh To Order locations in 2012.”

Carolyn Brundage, Part-Owner
SmashMouth Burgers and Pizza
Number of units: 1
Schererville, Indiana
Trend: QR codes
“After noticing an interest in QR codes and online videos, we decided to incorporate them into our dessert offerings. QR codes are displayed on the signage at the table and when clients scan codes they are automatically connected to videos showing our head chef making desserts, providing an in-the-kitchen look at the desserts as they’re crafted.”

Mark Snyder, COO
Hurricane Grill & Wings
Number of units: 43
Palm Beach, Florida
Trend: Sriracha sauce, pork, mini foods
“We created a Sriracha-based sauce for wings because of Sriracha’s growing popularity. We’ve also built a limited-time offer around pulled pork sliders that combine two hot trends: pork and mini foods.”

Clori Rose-Geiger, Co-Owner
Mia’s Pizza and Eats
Number of units: 1
Cumming, Georgia
Trend: Gluten-free
“Gluten-free foods are becoming very popular. Last summer we began serving a gluten-free pizza, which has been quite a hit. Gluten-intolerant people love having more options than just a salad.”

Ron Silver, Owner
Number of units: 1
New York City
Trend: Lard, in-house butchery
“Lard has had a bad reputation, but we think we’re about to see a resurgence of its use in cooking. We’ve started producing all of our own bacon and sausage from scratch, and we render our own lard for pie crusts, biscuits and hamburger buns.”

Deborah Topcik, Marketing Director
Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill
Number of units: 11
Scottsdale, Arizona
Trend: Skinny drinks
“Following the trend of ‘skinny drinks,’ we are incorporating cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks with less than 250 calories and organic, fresh ingredients into our menu.”

Chris Tsui, Owner
The Blue Goat
Number of units: 1
Richmond, Virginia
Trend: Locally sourced, “nose to tail,” local beverages
“We’re noticing an interest in local and artisanal food and beverages, so we are creating unique cocktails that utilize regional and small production spirits. And because we are the only ‘nose to tail’ concept restaurant in the city, we are using that trend to differentiate ourselves from the ever increasing number of restaurant choices.”

Jeff Mease, Founder & CEO
Pizza X
Number of units: 5
Bloomington, Indiana
Trend: House sodas
“I think there’s a growing interest in local and regional soft drinks. We’ve got a brewery and we’re experimenting with developing our own root beer for 2012.”

Michael Mrlik, President
Gatti’s Restaurant
Number of units: 125
Austin, Texas
Trend: Fast-casual
“We’ve introduced a service format that allows guests to customize their pizzas and salads in a more upscale environment than fast food. We also introduced oven-baked sandwiches that can easily be taken to-go.”

Alan Roth, Owner
Ricochet Bar & Lounge
Number of units: 1
Miami, Florida
Trend: Growing art scene
“In recent years, I’ve seen the Miami art scene grow drastically, so I am featuring monthly art video programs. We want to be on the cutting edge of the art world.”

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